Liberal Facism

Jonah Goldberg’s new book Liberal Facism sounds like it ought to be an interesting, though not entirely revolutionary, proposition: the charting of fascism throughout the twentieth century to demonstrate that it is in fact a left-wing, rather than right-wing phenomena. He is honest enough to admit in his introduction that his purpose is a partisan one, yet manages at this point in the proceedings to suppress his Republican allegiances to at least a tolerable level.
It all starts promisingly enough with a chapter on Mussolini and Italian fascism full of facts and occasional humour, perfect for the lay-historian.(Did you know that Mussolini was the editor of a socialist newspaper before he became a dictator? Or that Churchill had dubbed him the ‘world’s greatest lawgiver’?)
One even feels one can forgive him his slightly tangential rants. His rather irrelevant comparison at one point between Mussolini’s style and that of Yasser Arafat-‘though Arafat was undoubtedly far more murderous’-comes as a bit of a surprise.
Sadly this all-too-brief spurt of vaguely intelligent writing begins to unravel as soon as one reaches Chapter two: Hitler. Goldberg makes a half-decent attempt at showing that the Nazi Party, as a ‘popular movement’, held similar aims and values as those of communism: the provision of health care, the nationalisation of industry, etc. He even makes the very important point that anti-Semitism, or even racism, is not a fascist ideal, but rather the result of a paranoid dictator. Yet despite all this, his contentious references to similarities between the Left and National Socialism all too often come across as childish mud-slinging rather than reasoned argument. The absolute classic example comes during his discussion of the green policies pursued by the Nazis contrasted with those pursued by those on the Left today-again, does this prove that environmentalists are all closet Nazis?
By the time we reach American politics, the true focus of Goldberg, the whole thing has reduced to a rambling account of spurious similarities between the administrations of left-leaning American administrations and fascism. (Was the Wilson administration the first truly fascist state?)
Yet even were this the case the question ‘so what?’ is the blindingly obvious response which he never addresses. Having begun his introduction de-contaminating fascism as an ideological idea he now labels every administration he disagrees with as ‘fascist’, the implication being that this makes it automatically wrong.
Overall then this pseudo-intellectual ‘history’, though at times entertaining, ends up sounding like the tired, regurgitated rants one all too often associates with American conservatism. Regardless of which side of the political playing field you find yourself on, the sheer cringe-worthiness of this book, coupled with its utterly flawed logic and ultimate pointlessness, makes this an awful and simultaneously depressing read.
He mounts up fact upon fact without laying any foundations, with the result that the book ends up going nowhere. At 400+ pages this reviewer would rather just go and argue with some animal rights activists instead: its cheaper, quicker, and just as much of a waste of time.